Big Business: TAMU-CC Career Center Partners with Industry Giants to Support Student Success in Local Workforce and Beyond

“At the heart of our mission lies our commitment to equip every student with the necessary tools for a successful career."

Led by Executive Director Dr. Leslie Mills, the Career Center aims to establish a seamless transition for students from college life to the workforce.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — For many first-year students embarking on their college journey, the prospect of preparing for their future professional lives might not initially top their list of priorities. The allure of making new friends, exploring newfound independence, and immersing themselves in various activities and classes often takes precedence. However, as they receive important instruction in their required university seminar class, they are also strategically introduced to the university’s Career and Professional Development Center.

Led by Executive Director Dr. Leslie Mills and Associate Director Chau Hoang ’13 and supported by eight staff members, the Career Center aims to establish a seamless transition for students from college life to the workforce. Whereas previous generations of students may have accessed career-oriented services at a later stage of their studies or during a job fair, the strategic goal of the center is to incorporate essential career-oriented skills into a student’s college journey from the outset, ensuring personalized, holistic, and comprehensive preparation for the professional path that lies ahead.

“At the heart of our mission lies our commitment to equip every student with the necessary tools for a successful career,” Mills said. “Our career counselors pride themselves on their knowledge of up-to-date industry practices and processes, and we dedicate ourselves to giving students the best possible start.”

The TAMU-CC Career Center is a busy enterprise. In 2023, they hosted more than 2,000 student career consultations. They also witnessed record-breaking attendance at job fairs, with over 2,000 students meeting with over 450 employers seeking job opportunities.

Career and recruitment events on the Island have earned a positive reputation in the Coastal Bend, particularly after TAMU-CC joined forces with the United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce and the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Center to host the inaugural Coastal Bend First Career Fair, held in September 2022. The goal of the fair is to give local businesses priority access to Islander students and alumni to help build a stronger local workforce.

“Seeing our students become employed around the country is wonderful, but it is just as important that students stay here in the local community to share their talents and knowledge,” Hoang said.

This past year also saw the center promote more than 1,000 local internships and practicum opportunities to TAMU-CC students, with 575 local employers associated with these offers. Additionally, 895 students reported completing internships in 2023.

Local employers who are involved in the networking initiatives of the Career Center have responded positively and have encouraged other industry representatives to follow suit.

“The TAMU-CC Career Center is a great resource that many businesses in the region stand to benefit from,” said Joe Hopkins ’92, ’95, owner of the Hopkins CPA Firm. “They support keeping students in our region. Most importantly, they inspire the ambition of interns to obtain valuable experience on the job.”

A Stronger Foundation

For Valeria Barbosa ’23, ’24, an internship with the Port of Corpus Christi directly paved the way for her future career after she received an offer of employment with the Port as a Human Resources Assistant upon completing her Bachelor of Business Administration from TAMU-CC. She credits the Career Center with equipping her with the resources she needed to find and complete her internship.

“The center offered a variety of services, including resume writing, interview preparation, and career counseling, which helped me develop confidence in myself as a young professional,” Barbosa said. “I also attended different events hosted by the center, which helped me learn more about the internship process and how to market myself to potential employers.”

The university’s emphasis on career development is a big reason why Barbosa decided to return to her alma mater to earn a Master of Business Administration.

“TAMU-CC provides students with the opportunity to gain real-world experience in their chosen field of study, as well as helps them cultivate the professional skills they need to successfully find internships and employment,” she said. “The Career Center also gives support to recent alumni, which is a wonderful asset for students who don’t know exactly what they want to do right after they graduate.”

More Than a Job Fair

The process of helping students become advocates for their own employability goes far beyond hosting a job fair or finding a student an internship; the Career Center team also works alongside university faculty and staff to incorporate key professional competency development and industry experience into the university curriculum. In 2023 alone, the center conducted more than 200 classroom presentations that emphasized this comprehensive approach.

One such example is a partnership with the College of Business to integrate professional development activities into the first-year Introduction to Business class. This initiative requires all students to create resumes, develop professional profiles, and participate in mock interviews. The Career Center team also arranges for guest speakers, often Island University alumni, to deliver lectures to students, with 64 employers visiting classes and attending panel discussions and information sessions in 2023. Students also made site visits to Frost Bank, Steel Dynamics, and Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD).

“Working with the TAMU-CC Career and Professional Development Center has transformed our workforce planning,” said Israel Talamantez, CCAD Chief of Future Operations. “They listen, respond, and work hard to shape our future professionals.”

Another example of faculty-industry partnerships is the university’s Industry Connect series, piloted by Hoang in 2022. The series brings together university faculty, staff, and industry partners to explore industry needs, labor market trends, and collaboration opportunities.

In its inaugural run with the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Industry Connect series featured several local civil engineering professionals from companies such as HDR, Inc., SpawGlass, Hanson Professional Services, Port of Corpus Christi Authority, and Lockwood, Andrews & Newman, Inc. In fall 2023, the center hosted its second Industry Connect series focused on connecting representatives from the information technology sector with the university’s computer science majors.

Additionally, fall 2023 saw the Career Center expand its support to recruit industry-sponsored projects for the Engineering Capstone Project course to provide upcoming graduates with the opportunity to work on real industry problems while gaining invaluable exposure to potential employers.

“This capstone initiative allows more learning-by-doing opportunities while offering industry partners additional resources to assist in troubleshooting challenges, along with building strong brand representation on campus,” Hoang said. “It also plays a critical role in supporting our international students, who may not have the ability to undertake off-campus internships. We also hope this will present new sponsored research opportunities for faculty to further their collaborations with industry.”

The Career Center also encourages students to make one-on-one appointments to ensure they are well prepared before a job interview or job fair. Services include professional writing and communication tips, social media cultivation, resume support, and access to professional clothes for an interview via Izzy’s Closet.

This year has also seen the Career Center partner with Quinncia, a new AI-based program to provide students with 24/7 resume and interview support.

“Accessibility is so important for what we want to achieve,” Mills said. “We want to make sure students have resources available to them outside of the normal business hours or when a deadline is quickly approaching.”

Big Business. Big Futures.

As the Career Center strengthens its ties with local industries, it is also expanding its reach to national and international corporations. The past year has seen industry leaders from Texas and beyond connect with TAMU-CC to recruit students, including tech giants such as Tesla, Google, and Apple.

The Career Center hosted Tesla’s very first Tech Talk event in the Coastal Bend in fall 2023, with 134 students and 24 faculty in attendance. The very first campus visit from Google, also in fall 2023, welcomed 320 students and 78 faculty, while Apple’s virtual educational development workshop provided great insight to the 36 participating students as they prepared to apply to the company’s Strategic Data Solutions summer internship program.

“The students we’ve interviewed and interacted with from TAMU-CC have been well-prepared, possessing a strong foundation of skills and knowledge relevant to their respective fields,” said Jason Hinds, Managing Director of Google Cloud Customer Engineering. “It was evident that the center’s commitment to providing students with comprehensive career development resources had a direct impact on the quality of candidates we encountered.”

These are sentiments that also ring true with Islanders, as echoed by computer science graduate student Mohammed Ali Sheriff Shaik ’24.

“Being able to attend an event with an international company like Google was a huge boost to my confidence, and it was great to know that our university attracts such big corporate names,” he said. “I feel lucky to have access to such a dedicated career services team, who go above and beyond to help us form these valuable connections.”